The Granite Bowl

granite bowl

In Elbert County, the name "Granite Bowl" has grown to legendary status as the home of the Blue Devils. It has become the largest jewel in the crown of a community known as the “Granite Capital of the World.”

This is an historic year in the life of the Bowl on College Avenue. The upcoming 2010 season marks the 57th season of Blue Devil football in the Granite Bowl.

The site of the bowl was once a vast ravine between the Elberton High School (located where the Elbert County Middle School is today) and the Elbert County Courthouse.

According to Lee Atkinson head coach of the Blue Devils from 1948 to 1963, the area was a forested area around a stream that ran through town.

granite bowl

Granite Bowl Facts and Figures

* One of the most unique high school football stadiums in the U.S.
* Seats over 15,000 fans
* Built in 1962 by Athletic Boosters and the Granite Industry
* Made up of over 100,000 tons of Elberton granite
* Credit given to Ben Sutton, former City of Elberton Parks Director
* Boosters led by Horace Harper and his brother Tommy.
* Stadium made a reality by enlisting equipment, materials, money and sweat

granite bowl

Location

At that time, the Blue Devils home field was on North McIntosh Street at the site of the present-day Senior League Field. Atkinson reported that the field was a horrible place to play.
“You talk about a dust bowl,” he said of the field. The dust was just one of the problems, Atkinson stated that lightning was not good on the field and the surface became a quagmire after it rained. The seats were there on a temporary basis, also.
In fact, the high school had a long history of having to play on inferior surfaces. Atkinson reported that when he played for the Devils in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s, the team played on a 90 yard field in front of the rock gym. At that time, when a player was tackled on the goal line, an official moved the ball back 10 yards and the team had to cover that distance again.
Local real estate salesman Ben Sutton saw the two problems and decided to solve both. He came up with the idea of cleaning out the gully and putting in a football stadium.
“It wasn't a pretty field,” Atkinson stated, reporting that grass was spotty and rocks were scattered.
In addition, there was no seating on the visitors’ side of the field, only a huge wall built would keep dirt from falling on the playing surface.
The seats on the home side were located between the 30 yard lines and were only about six rows deep.

granite bowl

The Score Board

One of the most anxiously awaited events in local sports history is installation of the new scoreboard in the Granite Bowl! It was formerly in Sanford Stadium at The University of Georgia until a new scoreboard was erected when the stadium was enclosed. Elberton Crane & Rigging owned by Jack Stovall, contracted to take down the old scoreboard and install the new one. Mr. Stovall asked booster Horace Harper if anyone could take the old scoreboard and save transporting it to North Caroline where Data Signs Systems was to use it for scrap. Horace contacted Coach McFerrin who arranged with Data Systems for the scoreboard to used by ECCHS

However, problems arose almost immediately. A cutting torch ignited bird nests inside the structure, damaging wiring. Rains delayed the pouring of 30 yards of concrete footings to support the 15 ton board which measures 36 x 22 ft. A week long power outage at the ECCHS welding shop delayed the welding of huge I-beams donated by Whitlow Electric to mount the board. Then, football camp opened, diverting Coach McFerrin.
On the plus side, work is expected to proceed as quickly as possible...weather permitting, and... Coach McFerrin has praised the assistance from local citizens. "I can't say enough about the contributions of Horace Harper, Jack Stovall, Kenneth Whitlow of Whitlow Electric, and Larry Brady and his JTPA boys who did a lot of work. Jack and Ken really advise on wiring. "Anything will help," said McFerrin. "We don't have any money left in the budget since we spent $11,200 for new lighting and wiring in the Granite Bowl.

granite bowl
granite bowl

Player's Thoughts

Despite those hardships, neither players nor spectators were complaining.
“We were proud to be there. We thought we were big time, anyway,” Atkinson remarked Shelvyn Gunter, a starting offensive and defensive lineman on the 54’ squad, remembers a lot of noise and what seemed like a large group of spectators.
“We are very excited,” he said.
Starting quarterback Larry Wilson had to get over the sight of the new field.
“I was in awe of the stadium. The stadium was huge,” he stated.
The first Blue Devil team to play in the Granite Bowl lost the first game to Morgan County by a score of 7-0, but that small set-back did not discourage the Devil faithful. Gate receipts totaled $900 for the game.

granite bowl

Construction

Further construction on the Bowl progressed slowly until 1958.
“It was kind of a piecemeal thing,” Atkinson remarked.
In ’58, a group of boosters made a final push to finish the job. Local granite companies donated rock and heavy equipment to the project and workers volunteered at night.
Horace Harper and his brother, Tommy, were two of the workers on the project.
Harper said that because of the steep banking at the Bowl, heavy equipment was needed, but even with that, there were still problems to overcome.
“We had a lot of trouble with tracks coming off of the bulldozer,’ he reported.
The only expense in the new stadium came with materials for the press box and concrete. Everything else was volunteered or provided free-of-charge.
“I admire those people. There was a lot of hard work put into that place,” Gunter said. “It was unheard of to get the community together like that,” Wilson stated. “No one person can take credit for it.”

granite bowl
granite bowl
granite bowl

 

Dedication

The structure was formally dedicated before the 1961 season. Dedicated with the stadium was a monument to the group of boosters that finished Sutton’s idea. Listed on the marker are:

Dr. R.M. Bretches
Dr. Jack Adams
Glenn Ayers
Wallace Edwards
George Gaines
William F. Grant 
Horace Harper

John L. Herndon
Clyde Hewell
Marvin L. Hooks
Allan McGarity
William A. Stafford 
Charles Yeargin

The impact of the Granite Bowl has gone farther than just providing the Devils with a very decided home field advantage.
“It’s like Stone Mountain to Atlanta,” Wilson said.
“No one then, a very few now have anything to compare it with,” Gunter remarked.
Harper said that the stadium gives a sense of pride to the community, especially to children. “Wanting to see something better for your children” is why Harper said the volunteers gave all of their time and equipment to the project.
Of course, many changes have taken place in the Bowl since then, but the pride and uniqueness of the structure has never worn out. It has been awe inspiring for both Elbert Countians and visitors.
Gunter summed up the Granite Bowl mystique by saying, “A lot of people just enjoy coming there to play.”

**Special thanks goes to the Elberton Granite Association for photos and information.